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The 5 Secrets To Staining A Deck – How To Paint Or Stain A Deck To Last!

Are you looking to stain or paint your deck this year and actually have it last for more than just a season or two?

There is little doubt that for most home owners, the chore of staining or painting their deck isn’t one that brings a lot of excitement, joy or happiness. Especially when the coating doesn’t hold up for very long!

Not only can the process be extremely time consuming, it can also be quite labor intensive. Let’s face it, painting and staining is hard work! Adding injury to insult, the process certainly isn’t cheap either. Just like everything else, the price of stain and paint have both increased a great deal in recent years, making the task even more expensive.

stain or paint deck
One of the best ways to keep your wood deck in great shape is to protect its surface with a good coat of pain or stain on a regular basis.

One thing is for sure, staining the deck can be quite the investment. And that is exactly why it’s so important to do the job right so that it not only looks great, but can hopefully last for more than just a season or two.

The good news is that with a pro-active approach to deck maintenance you can have your deck looking great this summer, and for many summers to come. With that in mind, here are the five simple secrets to staining or painting your deck to last!

How To Paint Or Stain A Deck To Last – The 5 Big Keys To Success!

#1) Cleaning & Sanding

If you want that stain or paint to last, then it is vital to start with a clean, smooth surface. That means prior to putting on that first brush stroke, your deck and porch patio needs a little TLC. And in this case, the “C” stands for cleaning.

But how you perform that cleaning can make all the difference in the final paint job. First and foremost, sand down any cracks or splinters. A coat of paint or stain will not make these imperfections go away, so it is important to take care of them prior to coating. In addition, take the time now to replace any boards that are rotten or damaged.

Once that task is complete, the deck needs a good scrubbing. That not only helps remove the dirt and grime that can keep stain or paint from adhering, but also any mold or mildew that might be present.

One of the best tools of all for this task is a pressure water. But with that said, it needs to be used correctly. Be sure to use a tip that will clean but not gouge the wood.

pressure washing a deck
A good cleaning with a pressure washer can prepare the deck for painting or staining. The key is to use a nozzle that will not rip into the wood, but gently clean it.

A fan tip with a 40 to 60 degree angle works best for this process. It will clean the surface quickly, but without too rough of a blast of water. Anything with a stronger stream of water can rip into the wood quickly and mar it beyond repair.

#2) Let It Dry! How To Stain Or Paint A Deck To Last

Once your deck is cleaned, it is even more important to allow the wood to dry thoroughly before staining or painting. In fact, one of the most common mistakes that leads to a coating not adhering properly is not allowing the wood to dry out before applying paint or stain.

Plain and simple, it is never a good idea to power wash in the morning, and stain or paint the same day. In fact, even the next day, the wood is most likely not completely dry.

Unfortunately, although the wood may appear to be dry on the outside, it can still be holding moisture inside. And nothing will keep a paint or staining job from sticking more than moist wood. This is one time where a bit of patience pays off.

Deck and patio wood should be allowed to dry out for at least two to three days after being power washed. If it’s humid or rains in the interim, it may even take a bit longer to dry.

#3) Choosing The Right Coating – How To Stain Or Paint A Deck To Last

If you want your newly coated surface to last, then choosing the right stain or paint is another big key to success.

Take time to repair any damaged deck wood prior to painting. Also, be sure to inspect your deck’s support joists and stringers underneath to make sure they are strong and sturdy.

When it comes to stains and paint, there are some hard and fast rules for success. Beyond selecting a quality paint or stain, it is important to know that the type of finish is extremely important for how long it will hold up.

For starters, when it comes to staining, solid stain will always wear longer and outlast semi-transparent or transparent stains. When it comes to the three, the easiest way to think of it is as a good, better, best.

Selecting A Stain

A transparent stain will show all of the wood grain of the wood’s beauty. But it will not have the staying power of a semi-transparent or solid stain.

A full solid stain provides the most durable and longest lasting finish. It not only coats the wood entirely, but provides a tougher resistance to the elements. The downside is it will not show the wood grain as a detail as it really covers more as a paint would.

A semi-transparent stain is more of a compromise in protection and wood reveal. It will show some of the wood detail and can cover well, but not as well as a full, solid stain.

semi-transparent stain
A transparent or semi-transparent stain will show more of the wood grain, but will not hold up as long as a solid stain.

A transparent stain will show nearly all of the wood detail, but of the three, provides the least amount of long-term protection. If you truly love the wood look, it is fine to use – but just realize you will most likely have to apply yearly, or perhaps every other year to keep it in tip top shape.

Selecting A Paint – How To Stain Or Paint A Deck To Last

With paint, it is much same way in regard to flat, satin, semi-gloss and gloss selections. Gloss will always hold up the best and last the longest. It provides incredible protection for repelling rain and sunlight, and will outlast all of the other sheens. It is also the most washable of the four.

Semi gloss also provides a lot of protection for wood, just not at the highest level. Next in line is satin, followed by flat, which much like transparent stain, will need to be applied much more frequently.

Of course, your choice ultimately comes down to the look you desire, but it is important to know going in what to expect from the paint you choose.

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One final note on selecting the type of paint or stain – when it comes to porch or deck floors, it is always best to choose either a solid stain or a gloss or semi-gloss paint. There is so much wear and tear on floors, they need all the extra protection they can get!

#4 Use A Quality Brush & Quality Paint – How To Stain Or Paint A Deck To Last

The old saying of “you get what you pay for” certainly applies here. Just like selecting a high quality paint or stain is important, so is the brush you use. A poor brush can make for poor coverage, and the need for additional coats.

For oil based paints and stains, use a natural bristle brush. For latex (water-based) paints, use a synthetic-bristle brush.

We use a Wooster Stainer Bristle brush for staining and love the wide four inch coverage. More importantly, it doesn’t leave behind bristles! At around $15, it is a small price to pay for a good paint or stain job.

And what about spraying as an option? Although it can work, brushing and rolling are the best options for total adhesion. The paint or stain can be pushed into the cracks and crevices much better for deck wood.

#5 Frequency – How To Stain Or Paint A Deck To Last

Finally, and this is one of the biggest tips of all, how often you stain or paint your deck is a huge key in getting the most longevity out of your deck.

how to paint or stain a deck
No matter what type of coating or sheen you select, applying coats more frequently will keep the wood in great shape, and your deck looking sharp.

Unfortunately, most home owners allow too much time to pass between applications. When a coating begins to peel, flake or fade away, the wood below becomes vulnerable. Without protection, rain and the elements can quickly take their toll.

Splitting, cracking and warping can all occur quickly to unprotected wood. In the end, it can mean having to replace boards, entire sections, or even your entire deck.

Consistency Pays Off

For us, we compare deck maintenance to weeding chores in the garden. If you head out every day in the garden for a few minutes to pull a few weeds, the task never becomes too involved. But wait a few weeks and head out, and you will be overwhelmed!

Keeping a deck stained is exactly the same way. A coat of paint or stain every few years, while the deck boards are still in good condition, can be a simple task. But allow them to chip, wear and warp for too long, and you are suddenly faced with a major project.

Floors will always need the most attention by far. They get more direct sunlight and also bear the brunt of rain, snow and ice. We have found putting a quick coat of stain on our porch floor each spring is the answer. It takes us about an hour, and keeps the floor in tip-top shape.

It is much better than having to sand, fix boards, and have a complete overhaul by waiting too long. Happy Staining and Painting! Jim and Mary.

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